When you arrive at home of Lilian and Sandrine, the odds are good you will be greeted by Fig. Fig is a yellow lab and he is still a puppy. For a puppy, he does a lot around the place. On our first visit, he kept our children occupied with his boundless energy and his constant demand for belly rubs. Fig loves belly rubs. Besides occupying underage visitors, he also keeps a keen eye on the vineyard when harvest is in session. Fig is the dog of the Matray family. Fig lives in Juliénas.
Where is Juliénas you ask? It is in Beaujolais. It is way north. In fact except for Saint Amour, it is the northernmost of the Cru areas (Cru refers to superior growing areas )
The Romans were in these parts quite a bit. The quaint town of Juliénas most likely gained it’s name from Julius Cesar (the one William Shakespeare wrote about, Et tu Brutus etc..). At least that is one version. Again depending on who you ask, Juliénas was probably one of the first vineyards planted by the Romans when they first conquered Gaul. So, wine in these parts goes way back. The wine from here is also called “Juliénas”. Not confusing at all! The soil here is mostly clay with some granite on the western edge. Like many parts of Beaujolais, Juliénas is further divided into smaller communities.
[blockquote align=””]Some areas are better than others and make wines that are powerful and longliving. Some of these communities are : La Bottiére, Les Chers, Les Paquelets and Les Capitans. So, if you see a Juliénas that mentions any of the above the communes, you know it has some serious provenance. Our’s is from Les Paquelets.[/blockquote]
Now, about the wine itself.
This is like all Beaujolais Cru, 100% Gamay Noir. These are powerful wines and benefit from long cellaring. Typically they are earthy wines, deep red in color and has aromas of strawberries, cinnamon, peonies and violets. Juliénas has an edge of spice to it.
Our Juliénas comes from Les Paquelets from Domaine Matray. Lilian and his wife Sandrine are deeply passionate about their land. They should be rightfully so, as they make one of the most talked about Juliénas. In The Cheesemonger’s Tales: Of People and Places, Cheeses and Wines, Arthur Cunynghame says about the Matray vines,“With a south, south-east aspect, Lilian Matray’s vines are perfectly placed to ripen beautifully.” He also quotes Lilian about his approach to winemaking,
“Wine is first and foremost a ‘terroir’. It is also a profession and, above all, a passion. Sandrine and I look after all the work in the vines from pruning to harvest, which remains manual. Following on this is the winemaking itself, right upto sales. Each stage is inseparable and receives as much care and thought as the last”.
Domaine Matray makes 2 cuvées of their Juliénas. The basic bottling Les Paquelets is unoaked while the Vielles Vignes from older vines is very mildly oaked. We couldn’t make up our mind which one we liked. So, we got both!
Now their Saint Amour is no slacker and has also gained a lot of press. The 2011 vintage was chosen as one of the season’s best wines by The Independent newspaper. They called it ” As gorgeous as a misty autumn morning….” They don’t make many bottles of this lovely wine. We have a few bottles left.